Open letter to the protesters at the corner

(note: i didn’t go out except to the hospital, and had to rely on what my upset friends and family reported)

Dear Protesters,

As someone who loves our American democracy, I value your right to protest. I would even fight to protect it. Still, I wish you would exercise some common decency.

Today, when you came to my neighborhood, obstructing the busiest intersection, you caused a great deal of fear and confusion. While I understand that many of you are probably upset about the war in Gaza-Israel, there is no Israeli consulate here. There is no significant Israeli population at all in fact. There are, however, thousands of Jewish families, whose homes and synagogues are immediately adjacent to your protest. When you claim to be against Israel and not Jews, your protestations seem disingenuous, given your choice to terrorize our—Jewish, not Israeli—neighborhood.

You will no doubt object to the loaded term “terrorize” but it is hard to see it otherwise. When my baby sitter, who escaped Azerbaijan with her family to come to America, sees “Death to Jews, Death to Israel”, she is scared. When my patient who survived the Holocaust is driving to Havdalah services at the synagogue sees swastikas in front of her supermarket, she is scared. When my daughter asks, “what is that?” what would you have me tell her?

“They are mad about a war, honey.”

“Where, Daddy?”

“In another country, honey.”

“Do they hate Jews, Daddy?”

“I don’t know, honey.”

When Arab Islamic terrorists attack America, I do not come to your neighborhood to blame you. When Gaza launches rockets into southern Israel, I do not come to you on behalf of my cousins there. I know that you are not Hamas. You are not terror. You are my neighbor. We are Americans. Our values, our desires are the same.

Or so I thought.

Now I don’t know.

Please, if you wish to make a statement, do so, but don’t Balkanize our community. Don’t bring foreign conflicts to my corner. Protest in front of the Israeli consulate to ask for a halt to the invasion, the bombing. Protest in front of the Egyptian consulate to ask them to open their borders to Palestinian refugees. Write to Hamas and its supporters asking it to renounce terror, and recognize its neighbors’ (not just Israel, but Fatah as well) right to exist.

But don’t come to my corner, my deli, my temple. I can’t help you. And now I don’t like you.

And that saddens me.


  1. …omfg. This leaves me speechless.

    What the hell happened to the “great American melting pot?”

  2. Saddens me too. Jews are and seemingly have always been an easy target. It makes no difference about all the suffering that has gone before only the passions inflamed right now. Stay safe and know that it will pass. I just hope it passes without violence here.

  3. D. C. Sessions

    What the hell happened to the “great American melting pot?”

    The idea of the “melting pot” was that immigrants would arrive in the USA and become “American:” white, English-speaking, Protestant, and otherwise totally assimilated. Within a generation or, at most, two everyone would look just like the canonical “American” of the imagined late 19th Century New England and especially Midwestern United States.

    Well, of course there were a few raisins in the melting pot. You know, those dark spots? Some in the South, some in the North, some slightly lighter brown ones in the Southwest, some other lighter-brown ones on reservations, some golden ones scattered about — there was quite a bit of resistance to mixing them in. Besides, the Southwestern brown raisins for some reason didn’t seem interested in remaking themselves to pretend to be imitations of the people who had recently taken over the land they’d lived on for generations. The golden ones had an annoying practice of teaching their children non-English languages and didn’t seem all that interested in becoming Protestant Christians.

    Hey, even the Jews didn’t universally rush to convert. Martin Luther all over again.

    So, instead of a melting pot, we have a cultural Mulligan stew. Some of this, some of that, a chunk of whatever here and there. Speaking as an I-don’t-know-how-many-generation mongrel I like it that way as long as the “old country” feuds get left in the Old Country.

  4. Dude, I am with you on this.

  5. Allyson Rowen Taylor

    As the mother of a soldier and a community activist in Los Angeles, thank you for your words. They are so sad and so true. Here is a quote…..
    “Israel’s government should be quoting Churchill’s first speech in WWII: “You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.”
    “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in a word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival (…) At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”
    [Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Finest Hour 1939–1941, volume VI, p. 333]
    Unpopular, but survival matters more. This is the war on Islamic terrorism.”

  6. Damn….just, damn!

    Damn fine posting, that is. Thanks.

  7. Although I don’t think there’s any excuse at all for “Death to Jews” or Swastikas or the like… (In fact, isn’t “Death to Jews” actionable as incitement of unlawful action?)… but shouldn’t the same eloquent objections about “the melting pot” etc. being made to protesting against Israel’s actions also apply to the powerful pro-Israel lobby who are daily promoting Israel’s interests as America’s interests? (And promoting those interests quite successfully I might add, take a quick count of how many times the US has stood alone in support of Israel when the rest of the planet decried some action or other.) I think the idea of protesting Israel’s actions on the streetcorners of America is actually rather well-informed and apt.

    The actual problem with these protests isn’t their location, it’s their disgusting, threatening anti-semitic content.

  8. no, the problem is the location. it as much says, “all jews are murderers of arabs. tell your REAL country to stop it, and stop pretending to be american.”

  9. ART,
    That seems a bit one sided, no? You appear to be saying that all fault lies on one side and that Israel should go for “victory at all costs”, what with the Palestinians as a “monsterous tyranny”. Hmm. I don’t think this long-standing conflict is quite so cut-and-dried as WWII with good guys and bad. You don’t think what Israel is doing is itself terrorism? All that “collateral damage” from such an asymetric response is okay because those in Gaza aren’t “real people”, but simply part of that the amorphous hivemind “tyranny”?

    As for the original post, it was perhaps a bit disingenuous to say you did not blame them for 9/11 – I presume you did not, but many Americans did. And do. Yes, this “terrorizing” was probably inappropriate and actually harmful to their cause. But is it the majority view of the group, or simply some outlying hotheads? Also, would you or the media have even taken notice at all had they done it the “right way”? I’m not claiming some Jewish cabal running the media but simply recognizing the history of reporting on this subject in this country.

    Bah, extremists on both sides in the conflict there don’t want a solution, only “victory at any cost” including the loss of their own humanity. Unfortunately not all those nutball remove themselves to the actual battlefield, but bring their conflict here. I’m sorry you felt terrorized, but angry people do stood things and these people are no doubt angry about the blasé or biased response America is giving to this latest blowup.

  10. no, the problem is the location. it as much says, “all jews are murderers of arabs. tell your REAL country to stop it, and stop pretending to be american.”

    That’s quite simplistic. Without the “special” support of the US Israel would quite rapidly find itself in a very different situation. Therefore it makes good sense to address that support, and to address it where it originates: on the streetcorners of the US. I can’t speak for those particular protesters “in your neighbourhood” (wherever that may be) but I can say that it’s quite possible to decry and protest Israel’s actions and America’s unwavering support for Israel without all the nasty baggage which you (from your second hand vantage point) demand must really underly it all.

  11. These people scare me. I’m not Jewish, mind, but you would think on the end of the spectrum that values social justice, blind hate wouldn’t be welcomed and people who engaged in these hyperbolic idiocies would be shunned.

    While I think the influence of religious fundamentalism on Israeli government has turned it into something that would make Theodor Herzl vomit profusely (the border walls, the haredi monopoly on civil marriage), Israel is still an ally and a democratic government in an area dominated by totalitarianism and state propaganda. Israel should be held to the fire over what are, let’s face it, apartheid policies towards the native Arab population, but at the same time it doesn’t justify Hamas’ attacks on Israeli citizens. And certainly American Jews can’t, as a group, be held accountable for the actions of Israel, whether right or wrong, any more than American Muslims can be for Al Qaeda.

    I’ve thought for some time that the only valid solution is to kick the haredim out of government and offer full citizenship and the rights thereof to all people, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or other, living within the land Israel has claimed. I doubt the Arab countries would be happy about that, but it would take away a major propaganda tool, as well as bringing Israel closer to the original British mandate and possibly, just possibly, sooth Herzl’s upset stomach.

  12. mayhempix

    J Street is a progressive Jewish alternative to AIPAC that is open to everyone. They currently have an online campaign demanding the cessation of aggression by both sides in this tragic conflict.

    As a non-Jew I have watched in horror and disgust as the anti-semites have deceptively inflitrated the anti-war left. Before I quit posting at Huffington Post because of their anti-vaccine and woo favortism, a group of us outed David Duke who was anonymously posting as an anti-war organizer for a site called “NoMoreWarsForIsrael”. After following links from the website that led to Holocaust deniers we pinged the site and it came back registered to Duke. We posted the results and several angry posts appeared from him followed by a flurry of angry anti-semite posts by acolytes and sympathisizers.

    I am against the aggressive policies of the Israeli government just as I have been against the US government’s aggression in Iraq. But that never justifies bigotry and hate.

  13. CW, you’re missing the whole point. Try re reading for comprehension.

  14. You will no doubt object to the loaded term “terrorize” but it is hard to see it otherwise. When my baby sitter, who escaped Azerbaijan with her family to come to America, sees “Death to Jews, Death to Israel”, she is scared. When my patient who survived the Holocaust is driving to Havdalah services at the synagogue sees swastikas in front of her supermarket, she is scared. When my daughter asks, “what is that?” what would you have me tell her?

    I’m all for protests, but using swastika and genocidal language at a protest against killing?

    That’s pretty fucked up and stupid.

    Way to discredit themselves and showing a similar mindset as those they wanted to protest against.


    If they really wanted to protest against the US-American involvement in the whole mess, why didn’t they protest in front of government buildings, military bases and weapons factories or the like?

    I don’t know the area, but protesting in front of synagogues just says: Israelites = Jews everywhere in the world and that is nothing more then racism.

  15. D. C. Sessions

    Dude, I am with you on this.

    Sometimes it helps to provide context.

  16. Since I, too, am a Jew (culturally) living in Ann Arbor, I’m very aware of these folks, who have been protesting across the street from the conservative temple in Ann Arbor for many years every Saturday morning (and more recently in front of a supermarket that is owned by Jews and sells kosher meats and poultry. They represent a small, angry, very mixed group comprising some Arabs, Muslims, far-left types who have always opposed Israel, and, yes, Jews. Their type isn’t new, but the style of protest is peculiar in that it targets a house of worship, not a political location, to protest strictly political and military policies and practices.

    Imagine someone doing that in front of a local mosque or Islamic Center or charter school that primarily serves the Muslim community. The shit would hit the fan so resoundingly we’d be hearing the reverberations all over the world.

    Not so here in Ann Arbor. The rabbi at the temple, while clearly not happy about the form of protest, has cautioned his congregation not to engage these folks, and has, if memory serves, invited the protesters into the synagogue for coffee on cold mornings. I’m not a member of this temple, but I did attend services there occasionally when I was married to an active member, and this rabbi performed a religious wedding service for us, so I got to know him well enough to have a great deal of respect for him as a person. He has responded to the long-term heinous and obscene protests with restraint and class, far more of either than he and the temple membership have received from the protesters.

    If they are now resorting to signs that actually say “Death To Jews,” however, I believe they’ve crossed the line. Yes, it’s protected speech. But it’s also incitement to violence. To do this sort of thing anywhere is reprehensible. To do it by a house of worship with the sole purpose of punishing Jews who merely wish to attend services is heinous. I don’t get the local paper and hadn’t realized they’d gone to that extreme (though from experience, it doesn’t surprise me in the least).

    Personally, I am always torn when there is violence involving Jews, Israel, etc. It’s hard not to want Israel to win any conflict at all costs when it is threatened. It’s hard not to be sickened, too, by much of what Israel does. The entire middle east situation is a microcosm of so much that is sick about humanity (and it’s a hardly unique example). But I can’t help but feel that the situation there could easily have been avoided long ago had western powers wanted to solve the problem and had Arab leaders not been so willing to use Israel and Jews as scapegoats to keep the minds of poor Arabs off the wretched excesses of the wealth and powerful in Arab countries.

    I’m sure the protesters believe along with Mel Gibson that Jews are behind all the world’s wars, etc., and are readily able to ignore or rationalize the centuries of evil that have been done to Jews. And at the same time, many American Jews can ignore or rationalize many decades of evil that some Israelis have perpetrated against Palestinians. Pinning the blame entirely on Israel, however, is madness. And laying the responsibility at the feet of American Jews trying to attend services is very, very twisted indeed.

  17. Brian said, “I’ve thought for some time that the only valid solution is to kick the haredim out of government and offer full citizenship and the rights thereof to all people, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or other, living within the land Israel has claimed.”

    For what it’s worth, Brian, I agree with you and so do many other people. What you describe is called the “one state solution”. It is certainly the most egalitarian solution out there and one I endorse. However, it’s not that simple.

    The Haredim are in fact the most powerful force in Israeli government, and they whole-heartedly oppose such a solution. For them, Israel is the land promised to Jews by God; including non-Jewish persons as citizens flies in the face of that belief. Wrongly or rightly, it is what it is. Those people will cling to this out-dated, barbaric system so long as they live. The only hope for the region, as I see it, lies in the struggle of the oppressed minorities among them, and in the idealistic fervor of the Israeli youth, many of whom are beginning to awaken to the reality of the atrocities their government inflicts on its browner subjects every day. Unfortunately, this process will be delayed much longer than necessary because of sectarian strife.

    Once again, religion takes a thorny, difficult to solve issue and makes it nigh impossible. Yay for the religions of peace, love, and tolerance.

  18. Neither side (Hamas or Likud) has the moral high ground in this case. I’m not going to get into that.

    But – in many of the Jewish communities in the Chicago area, it’s not at all uncommon to see signs on synagogs stating, “We Stand With Isreal!” Protesting the actions of Israel in those neighborhoods is not inherently wrong or even misplaced, though it can of course be inconvenient.

    Now, I don’t know how explicit the support for Israel is in PalMD’s neighborhood. Obviously, not all synagogs explicitly state their political affiliation. As has been said, context is important. And protesting is no excuse for anti-semitism or hate speech. Or conflating the actions of the Israeli government with the desires of all Jews.

  19. BTW, i don’t know if this particular protest had the most heinous of signage. I wasn’t there. There were clearly from multiple reports many holocaust and nazi references, but other than that, I’m not sure. It was clearly intimidating, and not aimed at any political structures, simply at an ethnic enclave.

  20. To not recognize the significance of the location of the protest is to not understand anti semitism. It is the equivalent of saying after 9/11 ‘avoid Dearborn (the largest Arab enclave in the U.S.) it’s dangerous” .


  21. The original post was brilliant. This conflict fascinates me and terrifies me at the same time. I am especially interested and repelled by the special standard that the world seems to apply to Israel when it comes to collateral damage in a conflict – one they did not start.

    Israel’s enemies (Hamas, Hezbollah, most Islamic states) reject all the things that the rest of the world (including their own people) hold dear. The evidence on this is not questionable in nature or limited in quantity. Furthermore, they all participate in a more nefarious web of black market weapons that leads all the way to North Korea. This isn’t Israel against a bunch of stone-throwing youths.

    I have reviewed the evidence in the run-up to this latest conflict and have seen that Israel forcibly removed their own people from Gaza and left functioning infrastructure behind. Much of this infrastructure was completely destroyed by some elements of the Palestinians. Since then, Hamas has been terrorizing southern Israel with rocket launches and incursions. They liquidated Fatah and shut them out of Gaza. There is no political opposition to Hamas. They have used the time to increase their arsenal (in size and lethality) . . . for what?

    So how long does a state (Israel or any other) wait before it strikes? And if they were not using restraint, what would the casualty figures look like in such a densely populated area?

    It is all well and good to have armchair chats about diplomatic solutions and collateral damage but I do not see how that helps with what is ACTUALLY happening.

    Has Israel been a model of great behavior? Hardly but which country has? Have Israel’s enemies (Since before the state was even established) been declaring their intention to wipe it out? Have they not tried repeatedly?

    What is a disproportionate response in a situation like this? Would more dead Israelis because of more accurate Hamas weapons make it feel better for everyone?

    This may not be WWII (and I would say that wasn’t as morally clear cut as one poster suggested given the participation of Stalin as well as some of the Allied actions targeting civilian populations) but there are clearly some real bad guys in this fight. Yet all the attention is focused on a democratic state where people are free (including Arabs who have been running protests with over 100,000 present in the last few days without reprisal) for being disproportionate.

    It is mystifying and it is terrifying.

  22. Yes, Greg, no conflict is morally unambiguous about good vs. evil. Often even those on the “good” side will sometimes give up their high ground to “win at all costs” (which is what ART was suggesting I believe, and to which I was objecting).

    As for the repeated mention of Israel as a democratic state as if that justified all, was not Hamas duly elected? Israel (and the US) just didn’t care for the Palestinians choice. So economic and physical barriers were put in place to make the situation in Gaza worse. Talk about driving the masses into Hamas’ arms. And yes also I dispute that Israel’s enemies “reject all the things that the rest of the world (including their own people) hold dear”. That’s just hyperbole too silly to even try to rebut. You either don’t truly believe that, or you’re a fool. All things? Please.

    Now, about the disproportionate response and “collateral damage” (gotta’ love that term). One of my main problems is that they’re in part using US supplied weapons to do all that. Weapons that they’re not supposed to use but in defensive stance; and this is an offensive attack no doubt about it. And the people who’s lives are destroyed by those US supplied weapons know who supplied them and take offense at the supplier as well. That redirected anger impacts me, you and our host, i.e. the topic of the original post at the mild end, 9/11 at the further extreme.

    If this “nefarious web of black market weapons” (ooh, scary N. Korea reference) were truly such a big thing why is it that so few Israelis are killed — I think it was, ah, 4 (vs. 512+ Palestinians)? This I think is on the level of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Do you think UK should have persued a scorched earth policy there? Or what about the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s where there were numerous factions (Red Army, etc.) using violent tactics to terrorize people. Yes, it’s true those people were more integrated into society and not clustered into economically constrained refugee camps. And thus it wasn’t as simple to fight that European terror because one couldn’t just drop a bunch of bombs on an isolated geographic area. Is this current approach of overwhelming force a sensible means of dealing with the problem? I think not.

    I don’t think Israel’s tactics are in the US’s best interest and we’ll suffer from the blowback. If Israel were to sever ties with the US and go about this however they’d like, then, well I wouldn’t be happy but I’d have a lot less to complain about. But that’s not going to happen, and the US will continue to be intricately tied to Israel. So I’m going to continue to object to over-the-top tactics that I think are harmful to my own interests.

  23. Imagine someone doing that in front of a local mosque or Islamic Center or charter school that primarily serves the Muslim community. The shit would hit the fan so resoundingly we’d be hearing the reverberations all over the world.

    Actually, no you wouldn’t. How can I say that so definitively? Because I’ve seen people protesting in front of mosques, Islamic centers, etc without hearing a single word about it on any media outlet. And by “protesting” I mean holding up signs saying that all Arabs or Muslims (the two get conflated in US-Americans’ minds) should be deported, killed, or sent to Guantanemo. I agree with PalMD that the protests he has seen are stupid, evil, and counterproductive (assuming your goal is less violence in Gaza and Israel) and probably motivated at least in part by anti-Semitism, but let’s not pretend that anti-Islamic prejudice doesn’t exist in the US.

  24. CW, you’re missing the whole point. Try re reading for comprehension

    Comprehension isn’t really the issue. The problem is that you’ve given your interpretation of events without actually providing us with reports of those events. You note that the people in question explain that they are opposed to Israel not Jews, but you have just chosen not to believe them. You then swastikas and “Death to Jews” to support your judgment but then later concede that, well, maybe that didn’t actually happen.

    As it happens I am someone else who is opposed to Israel’s actions in Gaza and I am perfectly familiar with the way any opposition to Israel is met with accusation of anti-semitism. (You haven’t really seen absurd until you’ve seen a Jew called a self-hating neo-nazi for peacefully protesting against military violence.) So while we’re both striving for comprehension here’s my point: although you may not agree with, appreciate or understand why someone would protest on your streetcorner, although you may think it’s misguided, ineffective or resent it because it’s unsettling to you personally or to your family, that doesn’t actually mean those involved are anti-semites or neo-nazis. It doesn’t make them terrorists.

  25. Yeah, you really missed the point. the point wasn’t that people were protesting israeli policy, it’s that they chose to do it in a predominantly jewish neighborhood. Rather than aiming the protest at a political structure, they aimed it at an ethnic group. that’s what makes it antisemitic rather than benign.

  26. PalMD,
    I have to say that I don’t completely agree with you on this one.
    The content of their protest is unacceptable. But I think their location is acceptable.
    You might want to distinguish yourself from Israel but the fact of the matter is that diaspora Jews are strong financial supporters of Israel.

    Unfortunately, the anger and hate in the protesters just further serves to polarize the community. A very peaceful protest with pictures of injured civilians would be more effective.

    And maybe we should go an protest in front of mosques, peacefully, after each call for jihad.

  27. If every time the muslim world failed to denounce violence we were to head down to dearborn, we would be rightly accused of improper (although legal) behavior.

  28. Protests at a consulate are one thing. Protests at a residential neighborhood are quite another.

  29. You might want to distinguish yourself from Israel but the fact of the matter is that diaspora Jews are strong financial supporters of Israel.

    Two points about this comment:
    1. Although it may be true, outside financial support for Israel comes most strongly from the US government. If you think that that is because the US government is deeply influenced by a small minority, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. The support is given because of a desire to have a wholely owned subsidiary in the Middle East. Convincing or frightening people in Pal’s neighborhood to not give money to Israel won’t change either Israel’s economics or its policy. So the protest is, at best, inefficient.
    2. If it was aimed at changing the attitudes of people living in Pal’s neighborhood with respect to Israel, it backfired. Frightening people rarely convinces them to agree with you.

  30. Well put. I live near Maple and Orchard Lake, and I happened to drive by as the demo was ending. It was dark, and I only saw the sign about the Gaza “Holocaust”.
    The demonstration was clearly meant to intimidate rather than inform.
    I am Jewish, though non-observant. I am very upset by the continued use of massive force by the Israelis. As for the Arabs, I think that exaggeration is part of their DNA. As an example, the guy who organized the demo, Osama Siblani, said there were “thousands of demonstrators”, in response to the Police estimate of 250.
    There have been “reprisals” in France, and I am afraid there will be ones here. Siblani and his gang should stick to the US Federal Building, and leave the suburbs alone. He clearly isn’t interested in a real dialogue.

  31. Suesquatch

    I am so sick of hearing, “I don’t hate Jews, just Israel.”

    About half of the world’s Jews are in Israel. The other half are mostly here. Europe has very few because they, you know, exterminated a lot of them, and the Arab lands expelled them after the UN created the nation of Israel.

    When one talks about Israelis one is pretty much talking about most of those Jews who do not live in the US. And when one’s talking about the strong American pro-Israel lobby one’s talking about American Jews, many of whom have relatives and friends in Israel.

    It’s a semantic game and the new, socially acceptable way to hate Jews.

    And if the Jews/Israelis wanted to wipe out Gaza and the Palestinians their population wouldn’t be appreciably up from what it was when Israel became a nation, so please, genug with the Holocaust card. If anyone is committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians it’s radical Islam and other Arabs.

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